BRICS: Beyond Its Member Countries

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With so many possibilities of what could potentially happen, there is no doubt a gap to lead. The BRICS is not a perfect coalition, for it to remain relevant, its members must take a truthful assessment of the initiative’s opportunities and intrinsic limitations.

In 2010, South Africa began efforts to join the BRIC grouping, and the process for its formal admission began in August of that year. South Africa officially became a member nation on 24 December 2010, after being formally invited by the BRIC countries to join the group. It created an economic advantage for the country and also for the continent because the BRIC was created as an alternative to the G18 and G20.

The group consists of the five countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. BRICS holds an annual summit, which each state or government leader attends. Each year the heads of government take turns assuming the presidency, whose job it is to set the agenda for, and host, the annual summit.

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The group was formed as BRIC, including all of today’s members minus South Africa. South Africa joined in the third year of the group’s existence, 2011, forming BRICS.

The 10th BRICS summit that took place in South Africa is over and the obvious question from observers all over the world especially in Africa, would be how successful was the summit in achieving its theme of  peacekeeping to collaboration around the 4th Industrial Revolution, provide a number of issues that summit leaders say they want to chase.

A major challenge of the BRICS has been reconciling domestic interests and priorities with international obligations. How the bloc plans to take advantage of the current frail state of European alliances and strengthen its role and agenda in the international order.

Politicians, economics, observers and even critics all seem to agree that we are in a changing world order being speared headed by the US and countries are in a mad race to form alternate alliances and strengthen their economy.

Over the last decade, the BRICS have initiated a number of projects aimed at providing additional and different capabilities to political, global and economic governance structures.

Jim O’Neill, the economist who coined the BRICS phrase, believes that the group has performed better than even he had thought.

Paulo Nogueira Batista Jr., the vice president of the New Development Bank (NDB), also suggested past decade has showed the BRICS mechanism is “a working one.”

In 2014, with a view to institutionalize their international economic cooperation, the five countries established the NDB and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) facility. So far the bank has initiated funding to the value of US$3.4 billion at the end of 2017 to member countries. Over the past decade the BRICS total GDP has grown by 179 percent, trade expanded by 94 percent.

What the BRICS has achieved is to build financial integration for its member countries. In addition, BRICS has created the Contingency Reserve Arrangement, aimed at ensuring liquidity for member-states when they’re confronted by short term balance of payment crises.

The BRICS biggest challenge for the next decade is continued relevance to not just the member countries but, the world.

The ideology of BRICS was clear from its inception: to form a convenient and pragmatic 21st-century relationship that pools the influence of its members in order to achieve objectives agreed to by all five countries. In a world in which economic and political power is rapidly diffusing, and the world order is not exactly how it used to be, the BRICS nations seek to influence and shape the norms of global governance, which have been dictated by the Atlantic system in the past. BRICS, then, is a coming together of nation states at a particular geopolitical moment to achieve a set of goals. These nations have something in common- they are considered outsiders by the Atlantic system.

For each member of the BRICS, the coalition is considered a tool.

Brazil: Collaboration in shaping the Asian century, despite its geographical location and to build a global economic recognition.

Russia: Considered the poster child of the world’s rogue, it sees BRICS as a geopolitical reply to the eastward expansion of the Atlantic system.

India: Rising in science, technology and economy- BRICS bridges the gap between India’s status as a leading power and its old identity as the leader of the developing world.

China: For the last decade, China has been on a global rise and its aim is to navigate different markets, grow its economic and political power. BRICS is a necessary and available vehicle to drive its growing economic heft and influence.

South Africa: Considers BRICS as a firm nod to its role as a gateway to and a major economic and political player of the African continent.

It is the end of a decade for BRICS and a lot of attention is focused on how the next decade will look like for each member country. As each member countries pursue their own national agendas, the foundational principles of BRICS- respect for sovereign equality and pluralism in global governance will be tested. And the dynamics of how arising issues are handled will make huge impact on its success, growth and global dominance.

With so many possibilities of what could potentially happen, there is no doubt a gap to lead. The BRICS is not a perfect coalition, for it to remain relevant, its members must take a truthful assessment of the initiative’s opportunities and intrinsic limitations.

In 2017, China touched up the BRICS outreach partnership into the BRICS Plus which has a more extensive outlook within a broad spectrum of performers from emerging markets and the developing world. The shift of the traditional outreach partnership into the BRICS Plus could be interpreted as new trials for the possible increase of BRICS membership.

With so many factors coming into play, and different possibilities, it is pertinent that the BRICS defines its stand and reaffirm its commitment to a world that makes room for sovereign equality and democratic decision-making. Think of the BRICS beyond its member-countries.

It is imperative to ride on the success of the NDB and invest in additional BRICS institutions. It will be useful for BRICS to develop an institutional research wing, along the lines of the OECD, which can offer answers separate from western-led knowledge paradigms and which is better suited to the developing world. Create an inclusive model and a hypothetical seat at the table for the developing and emerging market. This will also strengthen the economic dominance of the BRIC.

It is time for the BRICS to form new and divergent alliances in different institutions.

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